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Debate 2: Did Obama back off the energy independence issue? In a word — no.

By Joe Romm on September 28, 2008 at 9:14 am

"Debate 2: Did Obama back off the energy independence issue? In a word — no."

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A couple of commenters here worry that Obama seemed to put energy independence on the “back burner” by suggesting his clean energy plan was the “first thing” he would cut to make room for the $700 billion bail out rescue deal. Significantly, that isn’t the message heard by at least one group of crucial voters — undecideds.

During the debate, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg ran a dial group of 45 undecided voters in St. Louis, Missouri: “These voters had an unmistakably Republican tilt, voting for President Bush by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004 and self-identifying as 33 percent Republican and 27 percent Democrat.” What did they hear?

On one of the most important issues to these voters — who will do a better job achieving energy independence — Obama … more than doubl[ed] an already impressive 20-point lead on the issue to 44 points. Obama scored some of his highest marks on our dials when talking about the need to make America energy independent. Even those who felt [Obama lost] the debate agreed in our follow-up focus groups that Obama was the more persuasive candidate on energy independence.

How is it that some seasoned clean energy folks listening to the debate came away with one message, whereas undecided voters came away with the exact opposite message? Welcome to the real world of political messaging!

Let’s look at what Obama said on clean energy during the debate. First, he made clear that a revolution in energy policies was one of his top priorities. When asked by moderator Jim Lehrer what priorities he might he have to give up as President because of the $700 billion financial rescue plan, he said:

But there’s no doubt that we’re not going to be able to do everything that I think needs to be done. There are some things that I think have to be done.

We have to have energy independence, so I’ve put forward a plan to make sure that, in 10 years’ time, we have freed ourselves from dependence on Middle Eastern oil by increasing production at home, but most importantly by starting to invest in alternative energy, solar, wind, biodiesel, making sure that we’re developing the fuel-efficient cars of the future right here in the United States, in Ohio and Michigan, instead of Japan and South Korea….

And I also think that we’re going to have to rebuild our infrastructure, which is falling behind, our roads, our bridges, but also broadband lines that reach into rural communities.

Also, making sure that we have a new electricity grid to get the alternative energy to population centers that are using them.

That is a strong, thoughtful, and unequivocal message.

Since Obama didn’t really answer the question directly — nor should he have (see below) — Lehrer asked the question again, and here is where Obama made what I would call a tactical debate mistake:

LEHRER: But if I hear the two of you correctly neither one of you is suggesting any major changes in what you want to do as president as a result of the financial bailout? Is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: No. As I said before, Jim, there are going to be things that end up having to be …

LEHRER: Like what?

OBAMA: … deferred and delayed. Well, look, I want to make sure that we are investing in energy in order to free ourselves from the dependence on foreign oil. That is a big project. That is a multi-year project.

LEHRER: Not willing to give that up?

OBAMA: Not willing to give up the need to do it but there may be individual components that we can’t do.

This was a tactical mistake I attribute to Obama’s classic progressive Democrat desire to try to sound reasonable and answer the questions he’s asked. In fact, once you’ve answered a journalist’s question, you need to stick with that answer. It is well known that journalists keep asking the same question in different forms over and over again until they get the answer they want, since they know that most people can’t monolithically stay on message.

Obama should have been prepared for this question, since it is kind of obvious, and many in the media had been raising it for days once the $700 billion figure was floated. A better answer was:

Jim, I can understand why you would think that this financial bill will require a major reordering of priorities. The Bush administration and the Republicans have shown that they can’t manage our economy or our government. They put us in this economic mess, and they horribly mismanaged previous crises like the response to hurricane Katrina. When I’m president, my financial team will work with the best economists and businessmen and women, like former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Warren Buffett. The $700 billion dollars we are talking about here is not a handout, but an investment in things like mortgage-backed securities that are currently very undervalued in this financial meltdown. My economic team will make sure we get good value for the taxpayer dollar, plus a share of the upside in any company that we purchase bad loans from. Like CNBC’s Jim Kramer says, this can be done as a good investment of the taxpayers money and we’re going to get it all back.

But I digress. Obama didn’t say that. Sure all you clean energy sophisticates out there heard Obama seem to say that he was going to back off individual components of his plan. But independents and undecideds heard him repeat his commitment to make energy independence a top priority, a “big project,” a “multi-year project,” one that he is “not willing to give up.”

That is the message that was delivered to most voters. Indeed, they probably heard someone who was being reasonable about his willingness to not do everything at once if economic and financial conditions changed.

Remember, until this debate, a great many voters weren’t paying any attention at all and had no idea that Obama had made clean energy a top priority. Further, most voters probably can’t remember the last presidential candidate they heard speak in such strong and detailed terms about energy independence. Al Gore didn’t do it. John Kerry didn’t do it.

The other key point is that Obama employed the single most important rhetorical device: repetition. A little later in the debate he said:

Two points I think are important to think about when it comes to Russia….

The second point I want to make is — is the issue of energy. Russia is in part resurgent and Putin is feeling powerful because of petro-dollars, as Senator McCain mentioned.

That means that we, as one of the biggest consumers of oil — 25 percent of the world’s oil — have to have an energy strategy not just to deal with Russia, but to deal with many of the rogue states we’ve talked about, Iran, Venezuela.

And that means, yes, increasing domestic production and off-shore drilling, but we only have 3 percent of the world’s oil supplies and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. So we can’t simply drill our way out of the problem.

What we’re going to have to do is to approach it through alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel, and, yes, nuclear energy, clean-coal technology. And, you know, I’ve got a plan for us to make a significant investment over the next 10 years to do that.

[Points out his opponent's record on the issue.]
And so we — we — we’ve got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to energy independence, because this is probably going to be just as vital for our economy and the pain that people are feeling at the pump — and, you know, winter’s coming and home heating oil — as it is our national security and the issue of climate change that’s so important.

This is a very strong statement again, and reaches out directly to middle-class voters who are suffering the pain at the pump or who have to pay for home heating oil. Hey, he even threw in climate change!

Did he back off the issue of energy independence and clean energy? Quite the reverse. Obama delivered his strong energy independence message again and again. The largest possible audience heard him say that this was a top priority because it is a matter not just of economic security and job creation, but also of national security and climate change. That is winning strategic messaging.

Anyone out there who thinks this is not going to be one of Obama’s highest and most immediate priorities, isn’t listening.

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23 Responses to Debate 2: Did Obama back off the energy independence issue? In a word — no.

  1. Hank R. says:

    Joe,

    I appreciate the broader points you are making. Obama, I hope, will follow through to help us develop the cash cow that energy efficiency represents.

    I was one who was concerned with his statement during the debate. This may be atributed to energy policy PTSD developed from the fall of Carter’s attempts, the Reagan years and watching America dis-invest household by household through SUV purchases.

    Even now, in California, our organization, Small Business California, is working to help develop AB32 while other small business organizations are fighting hard against what they describe as draconian regulation.

    There is still a lot of work to do to convince most people that smart energy management does not equal sacrifice and that for small businesses, energy efficiency means recovering profits.

  2. Joe, what did Obama say about McCain’s terrible record? I missed that part: do you have the phrase handy?

  3. Jay Alt says:

    Susan-
    Thanks for documenting McCain’s record, your link is a great resource. And to Joe for pointing out that the McCain record falls far short of his rhetoric and promises.

    - – - –
    Obama: “. . . but Senator McCain mentioned earlier the importance of looking at a record.

    Over 26 years, Senator McCain voted 23 times against alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel.

    And so we — we — we’ve got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to energy independence, because this is probably going to be just as vital for our economy and the pain that people are feeling at the pump — and, you know, winter’s coming and home heating oil — as it is our national security and the issue of climate change that’s so important.

  4. Dave Romm says:

    Obama didn’t attack McCain incessantly, nor did he have to. McCain’s trying to reinvent himself as a green candidate, but it looks a lot like flip-flopping. Meanwhile, Obama didn’t press his green creds too much. He didn’t have to. The debate was, in theory, about foreign policy and economics. Sure, it would have been nice if he’d talked about the jobs that his energy plan would create. McCain did pretty well with that point. But no one believes McCain will build 45 new nuclear power plants and most people believe Obama will help reduce dependency on foreign oil while making the country more energy efficient. Debates rarely get into specifics, especially the gory details that take time to explain.

    Obama came off as thoughtful and ready to go forward. McCain came off as passionate and PC. Of the two, Obama is the more trustworthy.

    I suspect in later debates this point will come up again, and they will reiterate their talking points more forcibly.

  5. mauri pelto says:

    Obama has a video on Youtube, his blueprint for change released on 9/19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM6zILb_FUU&feature=user that looks at his emergency economic plan. At the 1:10 mark he notes $15 billion a year for green technologies to create new jobs and energy independence. You are correct Joe, this is a major emphasis of his and one that I hope he keeps hammering at.

  6. Earl Killian says:

    Joe, what did you think of Biden’s post-debate comments?:
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/9/27/183719/979/504/612757
    No energy/climate comments there unfortunately. It makes you wonder what a Biden/Palin debate will be like though.

  7. Jim Bullis says:

    According to Hillary Clinton, Obama can think out of the box.

    There are two places where his plan, as stated in the debate, could go wrong. Hopefully there will be advice from out of the box.

    (1) Energy efficient cars: If the GM plan to “shift from oil to electricity” by making plug in cars is supported without thinking, we will probably continue to make large, inefficient cars, though they will be powered substantially from the “grid”. The joke is that the Prius, as now configured to run on gasoline only, is more efficient and a lesser source of CO2 than can be achieved by plugging new loads into our current grid. Patching electric motors and batteries into the basic automobile product of Detroit will do little good. The disaster is that they will pretend that it will be a big efficiency improvement, and while it might be a modest improvement over their current products, it does not come close to solving our global warming problems. As to helping out on our energy dependence, shifting from oil to coal will do that quite well, and it will be quite popular with our car driving public. The coal plants will be cranked up at night in particular, to handle the night time charging that is expected.

    So the opportunity to develop truly efficient cars will be lost in this slight-of-hand game. Hopefully the advisors that could know better will think about this. And I might not resent so much that the public is financing a re-tooling to continue with a disastrous product line.

    Historically, a case can be made that the oil depletion allowance put in place in 1924 and only somewhat reduced by under the Carter administration set in motion a national binge of manufacturing cars without much concern for their efficiency.

    And (2) the danger of continuing with a foolish electrical system is significant when the talk is of replacing the grid infrastructure. After the oil depletion allowance, the other historical screw-up was the national commitment to the central power plant concept, where more distributed dc generators might have been better arranged for efficiency. The dc generators could have been worked out to be cogeneration arrangements on a smaller community basis. Whereas, the giant central power plants have absolutely no option but to massively dump heat. Of course these are well suited to sit at railroad terminals, where coal can be delivered in the largest trains imaginable.

    So please Obama, and advisors, think out of the box.

  8. Earl Killian says:

    Jim Bullis wrote, “The joke is that the Prius, as now configured to run on gasoline only, is more efficient and a lesser source of CO2 than can be achieved by plugging new loads into our current grid.

    On what do you base the above claim. It is false. Please see Figure 2-4 of http://www.epriweb.com/public/000000000001000349.pdf

    Jim Bullis wrote, “while it might be a modest improvement over their current products, it does not come close to solving our global warming problems.

    Modest improvement?? Go to http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/sbs.htm and click on 2002, then Toyota, then RAV4 EV. Next click on Compare side-by-side, then 2002, then Toyota, then RAV4 2WD, then Automatic. Compare the Wells-to-Wheels greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: 3.9 tons/year for the EV, 8.0 tons for the gasoline vehicle (GV)? Since when is a 51% reduction “modest”? More importantly, the vehicles will emit less GHG as they age (unlike a GV) because the grid is reducing its GHG per kWh each year, and will continue to do so as we add renewables.

    This is a big part of the solution to our global warming pollution emissions from passenger vehicles.

    Jim Bullis wrote, “The coal plants will be cranked up at night in particular, to handle the night time charging that is expected.

    This is also false. Coal plants generally run at pretty the same power output level 24 hours a day. This is reflected in their 73% capacity factor, and much of this difference from 100% is due to plant shutdowns. Thus incremental load is served by peaking power plants (typically natural gas). The only way in which coal would be used to charge plug-ins is if new coal plants are built in response to plug-in load. Since coal plants are likely to face GHG caps sometime soon after January 2009, this is unlikely.

    Please stop posting misinformation about plug-in vehicles.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Recharging may be well matched with night-time wind power.

  10. Lamont says:

    hopefully obama will realize after he gets elected that ‘clean-coal’ doesn’t work.

  11. hapa says:

    agree with Lamont: things on the wayside because of budget constraints could easily be ethanol, nukes, ultra super-duper green coal turbo, since they are in fact very costly.

    obama is speaking calmly during a storm. it’s very good. even if any repair program will heading uphill upwind, politically and economically. it’s up to the geniuses how to do a fuel switch during high inflation.

  12. Bob Wallace says:

    I think Obama is doing what any politician has to do during the election process – be as general and inclusive as possible in order to spread the widest possible net for votes.

    He’s leaving open the option for nuclear *if the problems can be solved* and for coal *if the problems can be solved* – that’s my read. All big ‘ifs’.

    And I don’t think the problems are solvable at a price that will make energy from those sources choices that the market will embrace.

    I expect Obama will do as he typically does, find some good people and turn them loose to do what they are best at. He doesn’t seem to be a micro manager but does seem to stay involved and monitors things as they go along.

  13. Doug says:

    You know, if Obama can eventually recognize the stupidity of pursuing nuclear power (in its present form, at least), he’d have a powerful argument to use in negations with Iran:

    “You say you are only pursuing nuclear technology for purposes of power generation, right? In my country and the rest of the world, we have come to realize that pursuit of nuclear energy is a foolhardy endeavor, as compared to use of solar, wind, and geothermal.

    “So the question is: are you pursuing nuclear-weapons capability, or are you stupid?”

  14. Abdoul Yessoufou says:

    the best way forward is to get all car manufacturers to agree on a benchmark for the electric cars. this will include an industry wide agreement on the methodology to be used in calculating the emission reduction required before a car could be classed as green. A particular percentage of the power to drive the car must come from a renewable source. Thus, extending the scope of the assessment. Plugging the gas guzzlers into a new grid to consume electricity that generates the same amount of CO2 as the present consumption of gasoline is not a solution.

  15. Jim Bullis says:

    Ok Earl,
    The report you cited is perhaps legendary as the culprit in starting the bogus definition of mpge.

    I am pasting their formula in quotes:

    “This can be converted to miles per
    equivalent gasoline gallon (mpeg) by dividing the electric-only fuel economy in kWh/mi into the
    conversion factor of 33.44 kWh/equivalent gasoline gallon.”

    One gallon of gasoline and 33.44 kWh of electricity produce the same amount of heat. However, to generate the 33.44 kWh of electricity requires approximately 100 kWh of heat. The practice of ignoring thermal conversion efficiency demonstrates lack of understanding of physics, specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics. See Sears, Physics, Mechanics, Heat, and Sound 1950 for a good explanation that most engineering graduates should have been exposed to as college freshman. It seems many never really learned this topic. A lot of engineers never have had an occassion to think about it, but real physicists have to know it.

    No doubt there will be protests that hydro, solar, and wind are not exactly subject to this rule. There is a concept of marginal capacity in power generation which is relevant. This is the capacity that is available and economically sensible to bring on line in response to an increase in demand. Since hydro, solar, and wind are already being used to their full capacity, there is no marginal capacity for this. The use of natural gas generators, which also take a huge hit due to thermodynamics, is more complicated since the marginal capacity of generators using this fuel exists for complex reasons including the fact that much of this capacity was committed to and hugely invested in when natural gas was $2 per MMBTU. Government muddies the issue with regulation and price controls. However, the only sustainable and sensible long term use of natural gas is where there is a cogeneration process going on, such that natural gas can actually be price competitive with coal.

    California is not forthright in publishing their power generation fuel schedule, or at least not that I have been able to shake loose. I recently found a data resource for the Province of Ontario, where a real idea of the truth can be gleaned. I am still analyzing, it but the whole picture is there to work with for that Province. They do quite a lot of cogeneration. As far as I have been able to tell the only natural gas generators that work steadily are this kind of plants. See http://reports.ieso.ca/public/GenOutputCapability/PUB_GenOutputCapability_20080916.xml

    If you don’t use the right formulas and you refuse to think about how power generation works, you and EPRI can both get things wrong.

  16. Earl Killian says:

    Jim Bullis, I am aware of thermal conversion efficiency, thermodynamics, the Carnot Limit, Callen efficiency, etc. However what you wrote has no relevance to the points I made.

    I rebutted our false claims about the Prius using Wells-to-Wheels data from Argonne National Labs’ GREET 1.7 model, as run by the US EPA/DOE, and the data presented upon their webpage. GREET, as wells-to-wheels model, incorporates CO2 from all sources along the energy supply chain.

    The EPRI study also used GREET (1.5). MPG doesn’t enter into it.

    You’ve got it wrong, not EPRI. You’ve got no basis for making the false claims you did.

  17. Jim Bullis says:

    Earl Killian,

    The date of the reference you cited was published in July 2001. The price of natural gas over the decade preceding this date was consistently very low, and much thinking at that time was based on very different power plant operating assumptions. The EPRI thinking seems to have been much like the Calpine thinking of that date, they of course found the reality to be drastically different than the planning basis. (Calpine went into bankruptcy, just emerging a few months ago, with a lot of very unhappy investors left behind.)

    In this light it seems understandable that in 1991 they would dismiss the importance of coal and seemingly make hasty assumptions about the nature of coal power plant opertions.

    As I said before, we don’t know what the real schedule is for California. However if the technology in Ontario is remotely similar, the EPRI stated assumptions are very inappropriate. Specifically they say that coal plants will not run at night when electric vehicles are being charged. In Ontario, there are 11 power plants having non-zero capability. Of these, on Sept 16 this year, one operated during the day and was turned off at night. Two ran at a continuous output level which was about a fourth of their capability. The remaining eight ran full on during the day, but were scaled back varyingly from 25% to 75% but were never close to being shut down.

    This same data shows some interesting facts about dependability of wind production.

    Perhaps an authority such as yourself could come up with some real power plant data for California?

  18. Jim Bullis says:

    Earl Killian,

    You might agree more with me if you based your thinking on thermodynamic basics and built your arguments on such. I am afraid that Argonne and EPRI are a little too dedicated to supporting the results pre-determined to be true by their financial sponsors. Even still, they do provide useful data which I appreciate.

    And of course, I should practice my own advice. It is a little obscure but I have hard data from Argonne reports that the Prius engine thermal efficiency is 36% or 36-38% or 38% from various dynamometer results and a summary statement. See: http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/HV/399.pdf
    http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/HV/416.pdf

    You get about 30% more CO2 per BTU produced from coal. See http://www.miastrada.com/analyses for a solid power plant efficiency calculation as well as more exact CO2 data.

    Power distribution losses are around 7%. Electric motors and generators are not likely to get more than 92% efficiency. Chargers can vary a lot but I would expect about 95% efficiency from a very good one. Mechanical power ransmission losses in the Prius are, and this is a rough estimate, 10%.

    With this basic data, there is no need to argue from authority.

    I am trying to look carefully at the best balance between battery capacity and engine driven generator capacity for an experimental car I am developing. I think I have a very efficient aerodynamic concept which will make it reasonable to use both plug in and auxilliary diesel as electric power sources. Do you still think my conclusions are false?

    I appreciate you pointing out where you believe I am wrong, and hope you see this as a serious answer.

  19. Earl Killian says:

    Jim wrote, “You might agree more with me if you based your thinking on thermodynamic basics and built your arguments on such. I am afraid that Argonne and EPRI are a little too dedicated to supporting the results pre-determined to be true by their financial sponsors. Even still, they do provide useful data which I appreciate.

    I don’t see how you can compute the GHG per mile from thermodynamics. You need a lot of data. Wells to Wheels starts at the well for example. Then you have the GHG emissions to put it a tanker and move it to the US. Then you put it through a refinery, which has a lot of GHG emissions (they use a lot of natural gas and electricity at refineries, e.g. in 2006 refineries use 39 TWh!). I don’t see you counting refinery emissions, for example. Then you ship that gasoline to stations (more GHG emissions). Then you drive your car and emit the last GHG. You need to separately track the CO2, CH4, NO2, etc. emissions, multiply by their GWP and add up. For electricity you do the same thing, except you have to do it separately for coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, renewables, and other. This is not thermodynamics, it is bookkeeping. This is what ANL did in the GREET model. Just gathering the data took years, I expect. You’re welcome to second guess GREET if you want (call back in a couple of years and let me know if they were right or not).

    Jim wrote, “And of course, I should practice my own advice. It is a little obscure but I have hard data from Argonne reports that the Prius engine thermal efficiency is 36% or 36-38% or 38% from various dynamometer results and a summary statement. See: http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/HV/399.pdf http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/HV/416.pdf

    Ah, you trust ANL to get this right! Actually the numbers seem about right, given that 33,694 Wh/gal * 36% / 46 MPG = 264 Wh/mi. I would have guessed motor to wheels for the Prius to be 230 Wh/mi, which is in that ballpark.

    Jim wrote, “You get about 30% more CO2 per BTU produced from coal. See http://www.miastrada.com/analyses for a solid power plant efficiency calculation as well as more exact CO2 data.

    If you trust the EPA on that, why not just use their GHG/kWh for the US grid? Isn’t that a lot simpler?

    Jim wrote, “Power distribution losses are around 7%. Electric motors and generators are not likely to get more than 92% efficiency. Chargers can vary a lot but I would expect about 95% efficiency from a very good one. Mechanical power ransmission losses in the Prius are, and this is a rough estimate, 10%.

    This is all fine, but it is not enough to calculate GHG emissions. Where’s the rest?

    Jim wrote, “With this basic data, there is no need to argue from authority.

    How do you do the analysis without depending upon authorities for the data with which to do the GHG calculations?

    Jim wrote, “I am trying to look carefully at the best balance between battery capacity and engine driven generator capacity for an experimental car I am developing. I think I have a very efficient aerodynamic concept which will make it reasonable to use both plug in and auxilliary diesel as electric power sources. Do you still think my conclusions are false?

    Which conclusion? You haven’t done one yet that I can see. You’ve outlined the start of a calculation. When you complete it, I am sure you’ll find that plug-ins charged from the US grid are less than half of the GHG emissions of gasoline powered internal combustion vehicles, and about 25% less emissions than hybrids. The answer would be even more favorable to the plug-ins if you use not the averages for the U.S. grid, but its marginal GHG/kWh.

    Jim wrote, “I appreciate you pointing out where you believe I am wrong, and hope you see this as a serious answer.

    I don’t see you as wrong here, just not done. Keep going.

    By the way, did you know that the 39 TWh of electricity used by US refineries in 2006 could have powered BEVs driving 4.7% of 2006 US passenger vehicle miles?

  20. Jim Bullis says:

    Earl,

    Thanks for the discussion. Yes there is more to do, but my main point is that electricity must not be considered as a source of energy without accounting for the heat lost in producing it. The plug to wheels approach does this and thus gives a fuel efficiency advantage factor of about 3 to the electric car over any car that carries its own engine.

    If we have good data on the amount of CO2 that is emitted nationally in producing electricity for each of the various types of fuel, you can know quite accurately how much heat that represents. Simply knowing the amount of electricity produced from the respective fuels makes it very easy to calculate thermal efficiency. See http://www.miastrada.com/analyses.

    I understand that there are some differences in energy losses and emissions in the well to burning point processing for the various fuels, but in comparing coal to natural gas, these mostly make coal worse. Oil is much more complicated since there are so many by-products, though I roughly judge it to be not too different from coal. And as far as oil goes, getting believable data is not easy. So I think I will be satisfied with making comparisons from “burn point to wheels.”

    I think it is a reasonable approximation to determine greenhouse gases as the CO2 product of combustion.

    The amazing thing is the widespread perception that large power plants are especially efficient. It was a surprise to me how bad they really are.

    So as you point out, I believe some things and not others. However, I try to be realistically skeptical. Where there is raw data that is not subject to the possibility of biased analysis, I feel more confidence. I have some experience with how it is as an analyst working under contract to others.

    In my mind, the next most important point is trying to figure out how power plants really operate. I have been stuck trying to get California data, and have had to depend on scattered information with assumptions and expert’s opinions that help, but can be well off the mark. However, the real Province of Ontario data gives some approximately valid insight. See the post of Sept 29, 4:23pm.

    What you say about refineries using electricity is shocking. Do we have a way of knowing how much of that went into the many by-products of oil? But notice, even putting that full 4.7% burden on gasoline, it is still not so much in comparison with the 200% burden on electric power production.

  21. Earl Killian says:

    Jim, the greenhouse pollution of operating an ICE is 1.25 times the tailpipe emissions. I won’t help you with a methodology that calls it 1.00 instead of 1.25 because that is just a way to make ICEs look better than they really are. I believe the 1.00 was what you were suggesting when you wrote “I think it is a reasonable approximation to determine greenhouse gases as the CO2 product of combustion.”

  22. Jim Bullis says:

    You are right. I was ignoring that factor.

    Assuming you mean there are other greenhouse gases somehow associated with the CO2 from burning gasoline, I would defer to you on the magnitude of that factor. However, there must be a corresponding factor for greenhouse gases associated with the CO2 from burning coal. Maybe not as much, but it might be easier to get a real number.

    Then we could consider electrical energy production, either from coal or natural gas and energy production from a mobile gasoline engine. Then we could work out how much of the added electricity demand will come from coal.

    Of course, because you produce electricity from solar, this will not be meaningful in your case. However, I see no likelihood that purchasers of the GM Volt will act as you have, whether they don’t see the point or can not afford to.

  23. shop says:

    As I said before, we don’t know what the real schedule is for California. However if the technology in Ontario is remotely similar, the EPRI stated assumptions are very inappropriate. Specifically they say that coal plants will not run at night when electric vehicles are being charged. In Ontario, there are 11 power plants having non-zero capability. Of these, on Sept 16 this year, one operated during the day and was turned off at night. Two ran at a continuous output level which was about a fourth of their capability. The remaining eight ran full on during the day, but were scaled back varyingly from 25% to 75% but were never close to being shut down.